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The Fall: how Michael Wolff, the journalist who wrote the bestseller Fire and Fury, is taking on the Murdochs

Michael Wolff in 2018 (Getty Images)
Michael Wolff in 2018 (Getty Images)

Fire and Fury, the 2018 book by American journalist Michael Wolff, was always destined to become a New York Times number one bestseller, revealing one hair-raising anecdote after another from life inside the Trump White House.

“Although full of startling disclosures, this book amounts to much more than a treasure trove of gaffes and inanities,” said the Standard in its review. “It is ferociously well-written and pitilessly focused — and it is destined to become the primary account of the first nine months of the Trump presidency.”

Now Wolff, who went on to write two further books about Trump – Siege: Trump Under Fire, and Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency – is back with another book. And his 10th work, titled The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, looks likely to be another scorcher.

“I have been telling the story of the great power of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News for many years,” Wolff said. “This power is now reaching a natural end and The Fall brings the story to its closing act.”

Here’s everything we know so far about the upcoming tell-all book about the apparently imminent fall of Murdoch and Fox News.

What is the book going to be about?

It’s all there in the title. Wolff’s book, published later this month, will unpack much of the recent behind-the-scenes drama at Fox News, the conservative news channel that plays an integral role in American politics. It will also explore the intricacies of the Murdoch dynasty and what Wolff predicts will be its decline in influence.

Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation, is America’s most-watched cable network. Launched in 1996, it now boasts an average total audience across its primetime shows of 1.9 million – by far the largest of the US news channels. But over the past five years it has been hit by several explosive controversies.

These include several sexual harassment cases, which led to the departure of high-profile Fox employees Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and a defamation lawsuit involving Dominion Voting Systems, which cost Fox $787.5 million in a settlement. The corporation is facing other expensive lawsuits against voting machine company Smartmatic and a shareholder.

Some employees have seen Murdoch’s willingness to settle against Dominion as a sign that the mogul is getting soft: “Before this they only ever settled sexual harassment and phone-hacking lawsuits; this is a moment of weakness I’ve never seen,” said a former senior executive in April. “It is the right strategy, but it is still a stain on the company and there has been something of a cultural shift against Fox in the US, temporarily at least.”

That’s not all: behind the scenes, reports have indicated that Murdoch’s empire is in turmoil. Sharks are circling the 92-year-old Australian-American business magnate, who, according to Forbes, is worth around $17.5 billion, as the organisation starts to prepare for a successor to take over (much like in HBO’s Emmy-award winning series, Succession).

Murdoch and Trump had an uneasy relationship, too, which given Trump’s popularity in conservative circles has had some impact on Fox’s reputation. Fox fired leading political talk show host Tucker Carlson in April 2023 in the aftermath of the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit, which further divided its viewers.

Wolff’s new book will unpack some of these ongoing conflicts, dramas and power plays, drawing on his years of access to Murdoch for the mogul’s biography, as well as interviews from insiders, fans and critics.

Who has Wolff interviewed for the book?

According to Henry Holt, Wolff’s publisher, Wolff has interviewed “people throughout the Murdoch organisation, including many with direct knowledge of [Rupert] Murdoch and his family”.

To what extent has Wolff written about Rupert Murdoch in the past?

Wolff has been writing about Murdoch for years: in 2008, he published a biography of the media giant, titled The Man Who Owns the News, for which he spent hours speaking to Murdoch. In its review, The New York Times said that the book attacked “its subject with casual delight” and noted that throughout his career, Wolff had “somehow managed to both float above a demimonde of wealthy titans and seek to enter at every opportunity”.

As well as the 2008 book, Wolff has spent more than a decade chronicling the titan’s business practices. “War is Rupert Murdoch’s natural state,” wrote Wolff in Vanity Fair in 2009. “He relishes conflict and doesn’t back down — one reason why he’s won so many of his fights and so profoundly changed the nature of his industry.”

What have critics said about Wolff’s work in the past?

Wolff has written nine books, penned pieces for Vanity Fair, USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter and the UK’s GQ, edited Adweek, co- founded news aggregation website Newser and won several awards over his five decade career.

His bestselling books haven’t gone without criticism, however, with some arguing that Wolff puts too much of his own opinions in, and others finding fault with the way he draws together information to build a picture of events.

In Fire and Fury, for example, the author was criticised by the New Yorker for “absorbing” statements and conversations from his time in the White House “and reshaping them as a narrative all his own”. But Wolff had already addressed the complexities of reporting the varying, and often clashing sources in his introduction, saying: “Those conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.”

When is The Fall going to be released?

The Fall will be published on September 26, 2023.